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Study: Food texture fills in during loss of smell, taste after COVID-19

By HealthDay News
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Study: Food texture fills in during loss of smell, taste after COVID-19
People with loss of taste or smell after a bout with COVID-19 say it has changed their relationship with food and many have turned to a variety of textural sensations when deciding what to eat, according to a small study. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

People who've lost their ability to smell and taste due to COVID-19 have significant struggles, but they can find ways to cope with their situation, a new study shows.

One of the most common side effects of COVID-19 is the loss of the sense of smell, which severely affects the sense of taste. This can lead to anxiety, depression and reduced quality of life.

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In this study, five women were interviewed about how they were affected by their loss of smell and taste due to COVID-19.

Here are some of their responses:

  • "I mean, I can force myself to eat it, but it's not enjoyable like it used to be."
  • "It's very, very, very uncomfortable, upsetting. Like I said, I really enjoy food. From going to love and enjoying the taste of food, I can't really enjoy or say I love food anymore."
  • "It gets emotional too, because like I said, I cook a lot for my children. I got five children, I got two grandbabies and I cook a lot. But now it's like, I don't even want to cook. My cooking has changed because I can't smell or taste my food."
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Those responses reveal the emotional toll of the participants' loss of smell and taste, said study author Dr. Katie Phillips, an assistant professor in the department of otolaryngology, head & neck surgery at the University of Cincinnati's College of Medicine.

An "important component for this whole issue is the real mental health impact it has on patients when they can't taste and smell," she said in a university news release.

"I think just letting people know there is a mental health impact and acknowledging that, so that they need to get help and treatment if they're having difficulty, and that they're in the norm of people dealing with that," Phillips said.

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The study was published recently in the International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology.

Phillips also said that the study participants found creative ways to cope with the loss of smell and taste.

"Crunchiness was one of those things that people mentioned along with texture, and then the temperature and carbonation was brought up in multiple interviews, too," Phillips said.

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"It seemed like the patients we interviewed liked cold things. They liked carbonated beverages and then they liked the texture. And some of the texture was different. Some people really liked soft things, some liked crunchy things along those lines. It seemed as if texture was a really important component," she explained.

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For example, strawberries were among the foods the women ate because they could sense the texture of the fruit.

Other strategies included going to a candle store or a coffee shop to experience strong smells.

"I think getting the knowledge out is key," Phillips said. "This is something I repeat to my patients. It's more about how people in that situation can compensate. I don't think it's a treatment mechanism for taste and smell loss. It's more how you deal with this loss."

More information

Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar has more on COVID-19 and loss of smell.

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